Cheat Sheets

Subject Headings (LCSH)



J. McRee (Mac) Elrod

30 May 2011

See also Subject Cataloguing, Genre Headings.

Order of subject headings is not important, beyond the convention that
the first subject heading should agree with the classification. Most
headings in LCSH have an LCC associated with them, while will help in

In system which arrange MARC tags in field number order, in the
finished record a 600 person as subject, 610 corporate body as
subject, 611 conference as subject, or 630 uniform title as subject,
may come before the 650 which agrees with the class number. In such a
system, 651 place as subject heading would come after.

You do not use a term from the title in 650 unless it is an LCSH,
either the "Red Books" or LC online authorities. All headings in the
LC authority file, whether persons, corporate bodies, conferences,
topics, or places, have 2nd indicator 0.

Usually you would not assign more that three specific subject
headings. If more are needed to reflect the content of the book, you
would use a more general heading. If a book is about apples, pears,
and plums, you would have a 650 for each. If a books is about apples,
pears, plums, and oranges, you would the 650 0 $aFruit.

It would be good to have a print copy of "Free-Floating Subdivisions"
at your side. Not only does it tell you which free -floating
subdivision may be used with which type of heading, but which are
coded $x (topic) and which $v (genre). But note the $x is used if the
book is about the genre. A book about chemistry bibliographies would
be 650 0 $aChemistry$xBibliography. A bibliography of books about
chemistry would be 650 0 $aChemistry$vBibliography.

In addition to $x (topic) and $v (genre) subdivisions, you have $z
(place) and $y (period, common in history). Usually the order of
heading and subdivisions is $a$x$z$y$v. There are a few exceptions,
e.g., 650 0 $a$vReaders$xEnglish.

Not all headings and subdivisions may be divided by $z however. LCSH
tells you which may be divided geographically and which may not. Once
some were divided directly, i.e. the name of the city. Now all are
indirect, i.e., the name of the state, province or country, followed
by the city in a 2nd $z.

Field 650 is for what an item is *about*, e.g., 650 0 $aSymphony, for
a book about symphonies. Field 655 is for what an item *is*, e.g 655
0 $aSymphonies, for the score of a symphony. The confusion is caused
by the fact that LC continued to code genre terms as 650 long after
655 was introduced. Added confusion was caused when 600-651 2nd
indicators were not extended to 655 until later, resulting in the now
outdated 655 7 $aSymponies.$2lcsh in older records.

Some music cataloguers are continuing to use 650 for LCSH music genre
headings, because a new list of genre music genre terms is being
developed. MARBI has accepted different 2nd indicator and $2 subfield
code for LC 155 as opposed to 150 headings used in 655:

655 07 $a.$2lcgft

It is likely that "Symphonies" (used as an example above) will move to
LCGFT along with other plural music terms, while single terms for the
concept will remain in LCSH. Whether terms used in both ways (e.g.,
Electronic books, Board games) will have duplicate authorties is not
yet known,


All authorities including LCSH:


LCSH is available on the Web through the Library of Congress
Authorities and Vocabularies service http://id.loc.gov/ . The Subject
Headings are all there as SKOS, and the file is updated weekly. The
service is free, and the full LCSH file may be used online or
downloaded by anyone. (Instructions for download are in the Technical
Center tab on the Web site.)

LCSH subject guidance if you don't have access to SCM: Subject Headings:


Online LCSH brower:



Tentative monthly list:

Approved monthly list:

The latter also available here: